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EPA official played hooky as fake spy, to be sentenced

| Monday, Dec. 16, 2013, 8:54 p.m.

WASHINGTON — A senior EPA official who masqueraded as a CIA spy so he could skip work will be sentenced on Wednesday for defrauding the government out of nearly $1 million.

John C. Beale, 64, was one of the EPA's top climate experts when he collected hundreds of thousands of dollars in undeserved bonus and travel expenses while disappearing for up to 18 months at a time.

When his superiors asked of his whereabouts, he answered Pakistan or “Langley,” implying he was reporting to the headquarters of the intelligence agency. According to an NBC News report, Beale once claimed to be urgently needed in Pakistan because the Taliban was torturing his replacement. Federal prosecutors described his fraud as a “crime of massive proportion.”

Although he was paid more than $200,000 in salary and benefits, Beale didn't show up for work at the EPA for six months in 2008, telling officials he was working on an enormous government project involving “candidate security.”

He billed the government for first-class airplane trips to London, where he stayed at five-star hotels.

In fact, Beale had no relationship with the CIA at all. Patrick Sullivan, the EPA investigator, said he confirmed Beale didn't even have a security clearance. He spent much of the time he was purportedly working for the CIA at his Northern Virginia home riding bikes, doing housework and reading books, or at a vacation house on Cape Cod.

Beale's attorney, John Kern, said in court papers that thanks to “the help of his therapist” Beale “has come to recognize that, beyond the motive of greed, his theft and deception were motivated by a highly destructive and dysfunctional need to engage in excessively reckless, risky behavior.”

Kern acknowledged there was an 18-month period beginning in June 2011 when Beale performed “absolutely no work.”

In July 2010, the EPA's human resources office contacted Beale's Office of Air and Radiation with a document it had prepared titled “John Beale Pay Issues,” according to the report. The head of Beale's department was Gina McCarthy, who is now the head of the EPA. The report does not make clear whether the document was given to her.

A code on Beale's timecard, approved by the Office of Personnel Management, initially allowed his salary to exceed legal limits.

On Jan. 12, 2011, the EPA's Office of General Counsel warned McCarthy's staff to “stop retention bonus pay,” and McCarthy was asked to inform Beale, according to the report. But on April 2, 2012, McCarthy “confirmed no actions taken on retention bonus due to advice” from the head of the human resources department, according to the report.

Beale's bonus was not canceled until Feb. 5, 2013. He was forced to retire in April, when his base salary was $164,000. He will collect his pension.

Beale, who pleaded guilty in September to stealing nearly $900,000 in government pay and bonuses, is scheduled to be sentenced in federal court Wednesday. In court papers filed this week, Kern asked for jail time at the “low end” of the 30 to 37 months that Beale will get under federal sentencing guidelines. Beale has agreed to pay more than $1.3 million in restitution and forfeiture as part of the plea deal.

Top EPA officials have told investigators that they believed Beale's story that he was working as a clandestine officer for the CIA and did not question his exorbitant hotel and first-class airfare bills or the bonuses he collected. The scheme began in 1994.

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